The second part of the unveiling of my Top 50 eligible OHL prospects for the 2010 NHL entry draft.
Here are prospects 30 through 11:
30. Freddie Hamilton - Forward - Niagara IceDogs
Hamilton had a much improved second season in the league. That being said, there is room for more improvement. Like many young players in this league, Hamilton needs to be more consistent. Offensively he goes through stretches, week to week, where he can be both a stand out and invisible. At this point though, Hamilton is more of a complimentary weapon. He'll create off the forecheck and can work the cycle, but he's not a threat to be creative with the puck or to take it hard to the net. He works hard in the offensive end and capitalizes off his scoring opportunities. Hamilton went back and forth between center and the wing this year, and I actually like him better on the wing. Either way, he's responsible defensively and is working on his play without the puck. I'd love to see him add a more physical element to his game though. Another thing to add is that Hamilton actually had a pretty decent Under 18's (one of the few Canadians able to say that) and I think he showcased himself as a pretty safe selection inside the top 100 of the draft. A guy who could develop into a quality two way forward down the line.
29. Austin Levi - Defense - Plymouth Whalers
Levi is a very raw prospect, but one that has definitely caught the eye of NHL scouts. He's got plus size, and potential at both ends of the ice. In really his first OHL season, Levi made some big improvements over the course of the season. Defensively, Levi is solid off the rush thanks to his good mobility (a big plus for a large, physical defenseman), however he still needs to work on his zone coverage as he can get caught running around a bit too much (whether he's looking for the hit, or just plain loses his man). Offensively, the skating can be a really big asset in puck carrying, but he doesn't have the confidence or comfort to do it consistently. But he's fully capable. Earlier in the season Levi landed himself on the plays of the week for an end to end rush and a goal. But he continues to struggle with an active forecheck and can be prone to turnovers when he panics to a charging forward. I think with added strength, a larger role and greater experience, some of these problems will iron themselves out. My guess is there's an NHL team out there who likes Levi enough to take him in the first three rounds.
28. Philip Lane - Forward - Brampton Battalion
I think Lane is one of the safest prospects among this year's draft class. With good size, speed, physicality, and a developing offensive ability, he at least profiles as an NHL checking line player in the future. The question is, do you think Lane has enough offensive potential to develop into something more than that? I think it's a toss up. His goal production was very fluky this year, but he did end up 3rd on the Battalion in goals with 18. Whether it be a lack of strength or confidence, Lane can struggle to handle the puck at full speed and it limits him to more of an energy charged opportunist, rather than a take charge offensive player. I like him as a player and prospect, but I'm split as to whether the hands ever develop enough to make him a scoring line option at the next level.
27. Philip Grubauer - Goaltender - Windsor Spitfires
His play in the OHL playoffs and the Memorial Cup has definitely elevated his stock, at least to the point of being the second best goaltending option from the league behind Niagara's Mark Visentin. In some ways, Grubauer is a lot like Ottawa's Petr Mrazek. He's definitely one of your traditional "floppers." He spends a lot of his time on the ice, trying to take away the bottom of the net with his plus agility. He's very athletic and has a very quick reaction time. He also anticipates the play really well and comes up with a lot of jaw dropping saves as a result. In the face of adversity this playoffs...with a ton of pressure on him, he's come up with some tremendous performances and that shows a lot about his character. He can be prone to letting up a bad goal here and there, and because of his unorthodox style, he can be susceptible to shots to the upper part of the net. Has definitely put himself into contention for a spot in the top 100.
26. Geoffrey Schemitsch - Defense - Owen Sound Attack
No player on this list raised his stock as much as Schemitsch. From the major midget land of draft obscurity to the Under 18's and the potential to be selected in the top 100 of the NHL draft. Schemitsch had a very strong rookie season in the OHL for a very disappointing team. In a way, he was one of the few bright spots for the Attack. Schemitsch has OK size, but he's already a very capable two way defender. He played in all situations for the Attack this year and has the mobility to defend off the rush, as well as the intelligence to read and react to situation in the defensive zone. Offensively he runs the point really well and can make a strong first pass. He has good vision on the ice and does a good job of finding his teammates in transition. A few negatives I want to mention though. Whether it was a conditioning thing or something else, Schemitsch's play really slipped towards the end of the season and he was a lot better in the first half of the year in comparison to the second. Also, for a more offensive defenseman, he can be somewhat timid in rushing the puck up ice. At the World Under 18's, I felt like he struggled with this in particular. Teams with a strong forecheck, who don't give him the time to bring the puck up, can often force him into turnovers. But you have to think that Schemitsch will improve and will gain the confidence necessary to take his game to that next level.
25. Andrew Yogan - Forward - Erie Otters
The past two seasons have been rough for Yogan in the injury department. First there was the concussion suffered late last season from the Zac Rinaldo hit from behind. Now this year he broke his leg blocking a shot. I think these injuries really prevented him from developing and producing the way he could have. As a late 1991, a lot bigger things were expected of Yogan. There is a lot to like about Yogan. As a power forward prospect, he's probably got some of the biggest boom or bust potential in the draft. Great size, not afraid to throw the body around and work hard without the puck. He's also got tremendous hands and has very strong puck control skills. That being said, his skating is only average and he can tend to take some shifts off. I also think he needs to use his linemates better, and can be prone to turnovers by trying to be too creative. Not often a criticism that is associated with power forwards, but he's a bit of an interesting breed.
24. Joey Hishon - Forward - Owen Sound Attack
While some would probably argue that John McFarland took the biggest fall among prospects available this year, I'd probably hasten to say Hishon did. After his performance at last year's Under 18's, many were putting Hishon on the fast track for the first round. But this year was a bit of a disaster. Owen Sound struggled and Hishon spent a large portion of the year injured with a broken foot. Similar to Yogan, as a late 1991, much more was expected of Hishon, considering his offensive production was better last year. While he is undersized (around the 5'10-5'11 mark), he's an absolutely terrific skater. His acceleration in particular makes him an explosive player. To an extent, I think his skating also can be his downfall. Offensively he can be predictable, and as long as the defenseman can keep pace with him, they can force him into a turnover. In this regard, he needs to use his linemates better, even if he is a quality playmaker when he does pass the puck. I think his play away from the puck did improve some this year though and he's more active along the boards and defensively. But I'm still not as convinced that he'll carry his offensive production over to the NHL.
23. Steven Shipley - Forward - Owen Sound Attack
Seems only natural to have the Attack boys beside each other. Shipley, however, is about as drastic an opposite as you can find. A few things impressed me with Shipley this season in particular. For one, when Hishon went down to injury and this team was really struggling, he put the Attack on his back and played some inspired hockey. Secondly, I felt like he had a solid Under 18's and really showed that he CAN play without the puck as part of a hardworking scoring line with Christian Thomas and Greg McKegg (even if his performance at the CHL Top Prospects Game was very forgettable). He has his faults. For one, he really needs to improve his first few steps. He's very capable of taking the puck to the net and once he gets going, he's pretty hard to stop. But that lack of explosiveness in his stride prevents him from being as dangerous as he could be. He also needs to work improving the consistency with which he battles hard, as he can tend to float a bit. But with good size, smarts and offensive skill, I think he can make some NHL team happy some day with the determination to improve.
22. Christian Thomas - Forward - Oshawa Generals
Heck, when a player is honored by league coaches as much as Christian Thomas was in the Coaches Poll, you deserve to get noticed. And when you're father is Steve "Stumpy" Thomas, there's even more reason. Thomas is undersized. Yes we know. But he possesses so many strong qualities that he's impossible to overlook. For one, he has one of the most lethal shots in the OHL. By the end of his time in this league, he could easily win a goal scoring title. He skates well and hard, he's not afraid to take the puck to the net or go to the net hard looking for a pass. He works hard without the puck and is developing and comfort level with throwing his body around. It's the old adage, "well if he was 3 inches taller..." Well the times have changed. Players Thomas' size can have success in the NHL.
21. Justin Shugg - Forward - Windsor Spitfires
The perfect example as to how a third year of junior can help a late birthday 1991. Shugg made great strides this season and has developed into a very complete forward prospect. He works very hard without the puck and is a lethal forechecker. His speed, acceleration, and balance would all be just average, but his intelligence without the puck and work ethic help him to get a lot of scoring opportunities. He's also got a very strong shot and can really bury the puck if given the opportunity. As the year went on, I felt like he got better and better. I think Shugg is also the type of prospect who requires a few viewings to really appreciate. On top of it all, I think Shugg is having an excellent Memorial Cup so far, which has to have some NHL scouts taking notice and putting his name down as a potential second round pick.
20. Devante Smith-Pelly - Forward - Mississauga St. Michael's Majors
Smith-Pelly wasn't getting a lot of attention early on for the draft, but as the season has progressed, he seems to have cemented himself within the top 100. Smith-Pelly was the co-chief of the Majors offense this year (along with Casey Cizikas). He loves to take the puck to the net, and even though he isn't tall, he's very strong and is already tough to knock off the puck. He's got a good shot and can score from pretty much anywhere on the ice. He also generates scoring chances for his linemates, in particular on the forecheck and through hard work along the boards. I think that if he were a more physical player, he'd be ranked a little bit higher. While he's an aggressive player, he's not really the type to throw his weight around and lay you out with a big hit (if that makes sense). I think he really impressed scouts with his performance at the CHL Top Prospects game.
19. Dalton Smith - Forward - Ottawa 67's
Smith is a rare breed in today's game. He's a real throwback to the power forwards of yester years. While Smith's skating does need improvement (in particular his speed, acceleration and agility), everything else he does is a plus. He is a tenacious physical competitor who really loves to throw the body. He also doesn't hesitate to drop the gloves and loves to mix it up. On top of that, he's got good hands and a good wrist shot. He's one of those guys who can find the puck in traffic and put it to the back of the net. As he gets stronger (tough to imagine), he's going to be a real load to contend with near the crease and he could easily score 30 goals in the OHL next season. Lastly, he's actually a quality two way player and is a staple on the 67's penalty kill. Outside of the skating issues, there really isn't much to dislike about Smith's game.
18. Ryan Martindale - Forward - Ottawa 67's
For Martindale, it's all about consistency. He has the ability to do great damage offensively, but it doesn't happen every game, nor every shift. As a late 1991, even with his past injury/sickness problems, you have to expect a greater output than Martindale put out (just less than a point per game). Yes he has some very likable qualities from an NHL stand point. He has great size, and he is skilled. He knows how to use his size to protect the puck and is actually a pretty good playmaker too. But I really don't like his play away from the puck. His skating (in particular his high end speed and agility) is only average and it prevents him from being able to use his size to take the puck to the net on a consistent basis. While skating can be improved, I'm not entirely sure he knows how to find space on the ice. He doesn't do a tremendous job of putting himself in scoring opportunities (how else can you explain only 19 goals for an 18-19 year old player at his size), and he's a fairly easy cover for teams with big enough defenseman to handle him. Maybe I'm just not drinking the Martindale Kool-Aid. I see the NHL appeal though.
17. Ivan Telegin - Forward - Saginaw Spirit
What the heck happened to this guy at the World Junior Championships? Before the tournament, Telegin was among the league leaders in rookie scoring. But he returned a different player, and then hit the injury big, suffering a concussion and missing a slew of games. Then it got even worse for Telegin as he was mysteriously cut from the Russian Under 18 team with Kiril Kabanov. Sounds like politics to me, but it still has to raise some questions. When he was playing well at the beginning of the year, Telegin looked like the complete package. Great size, really difficult to deal with down low. He was scoring a lot of goals near the blue paint. But he's also a very good skater for his size and is capable of creating offense off the rush. But will the real Telegin please stand up? Are we looking at the goal scoring bull who looked unstoppable in the first few months, or the invisible, sheepish forward who took over his body in the second half?
16. Mark Visentin - Goaltender - Niagara IceDogs
Few players in this draft year improved more than Visentin did this year in my eyes. A lot of that has to do with the hard work he put in this offseason. Visentin's strong work ethic has been documented and he takes his work seriously. It shows in the on ice product. Visentin is your classic butterfly goaltender who challenges shooters, takes away the bottom of the net and successfully anticipates the action in front of him. At the top prospects game, he was absolutely fantastic and went save for save with Calvin Pickard, who is widely considered to be a potential first round draft pick. Visentin can give up the odd really bad goal, and whether that's due in part to momentary lapses in concentration, I'm not sure. However with how much he improved this year and the dedication Visentin shows to his craft, you have to believe he's going to continue to get better and better. He's no question the top goaltender available from the OHL in my opinion.
15. Brock Beukeboom - Defense - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Bloodlines are important for the NHL draft, and Beukeboom surely has strong ones thanks to his father, former Oiler and Ranger Jeff Beukeboom. Brock doesn't quite have his father's size, nor is he as mean, but there are similarities. In the first part of the season, Beukeboom was playing very well at both ends of the ice and was being mentioned as a possible late first rounder. But he became wildly inconsistent in the second half. At times he looks like a strong two way defenseman who takes the body, can handle forwards off the rush and make a good first pass. But at other times he struggles to find his positioning (especially against quicker forwards) and looks unsure of whether he should try to use the body or make the safer stick check. Maybe we're looking at a defenseman who's trying to live in the shadow of his father (one of the meanest defenseman of the last twenty years) and isn't comfortable playing that type of game? I like the potential and I think Beukeboom develops into a quality NHL defender, but I've liked his teammate Brandon Archibald better all season long.
14. Brandon Archibald - Defense - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
As mentioned, I've preferred Archibald to Beukeboom all season long. I think he profiles better as an NHL defenseman and has a higher end potential. He's got really good size and could be 6'4, +200lbs by the time he hits the NHL. For such a big defender, I think his backward and lateral mobility is excellent. He stays with rushing forwards very well and is tough to beat to the outside. That being said, he needs to learn to use his size more, but he did make great strides in that area this season. I think he'll get more physical as he matures and becomes more comfortable. Offensively, it's all about confidence. He has the capability to skate the puck up ice, but will often elect to pass or chip the puck out of his zone. This lack of confidence can lead to some turnovers in his own end at times. But he did a pretty good job on the Hounds second powerplay unit this season and actually had a pretty good shot. I think his offensive game will only get better and he profiles as a top quality two way defender in the NHL.
13. Jared Knight - Forward - London Knights
So happy to see that Knight has finally gotten respect from the scouting community he deserves. Yes he had a disappointing start to the season. But we know why; his much publicized battle with diabetes. Living with diabetes is quite the lifestyle changer, so the fact he was able to score 46 goals this year (between the regular season and playoffs) is quite astounding to me. Knight definitely deserves notice for his play in the playoffs. He was fantastic for London and had 10 goals in 12 games; quite often their second best forward on the ice behind Nazem Kadri. While his top end speed is only average, I think his acceleration and agility is quite good. He can be very explosive in taking the puck to the net, an activity which he regularly seeks out. With added strength, and increased comfort with his diabetes, I bet Knight is top 5 in goals next season. The curious thing for me is if he regains the chippyness to his game that he displayed as a rookie. I didn't think he was nearly as physical or pesky this season. Moving forward, I think this will be a key to his development.
12. Greg McKegg - Forward - Erie Otters
Playing in Erie this year for a mediocre team, McKegg became a bit of a hidden treasure. He's perhaps the best player nobody ever talks about. Through the second half of the season, his offensive production put him right up there with the likes of Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin (and Tyler Toffoli for that matter). McKegg is just a solid all around offensive player. Adequate skater, but really good instincts. He makes his linemates better and as skilled as he is offensively, he's not afraid to work for the puck. I think he showcased this best of all at the Under 18's where I felt he was maybe Canada's best and most consistent forward. Because he's not flashy and because he's not playing in a big OHL market, he's become kind of a forgotten man this entire season. I truly doubt NHL team have forgotten about him though.
11. John McFarland - Forward - Sudbury Wolves
I'm sure McFarland's ranking might come as a shock to some people. Outside the top 10 among his peer group is definitely something many lists won't go to. I realize McFarland probably goes higher than my ranking...heck I still haven't seen a scouting agency with him outside the first round. But I just can't put him any higher based on the year he had. The Under 18's was his last chance to shine and he blew it in my eyes. He's got the wheels, the shot and is actually a pretty complete offensive player when he's on. He's also aggressive and a willing combatant. But for all the skill he possesses, he just can't seem to produce. A lot of that stems from the fact that he just doesn't put himself in good scoring opportunities. And yes, I realize Sudbury had a really bad season, but we can't blame everything on that. For as much people talk about his upside being through the roof, I think there's also the chance he ends up as one of those guys who never really develops and becomes an NHL grinder. Heck Aaron Asham was a dynamite scorer in the WHL back in the day (only one example I know, but you get my point). Because he's already physically mature enough and has the puck skill and shot to play in the NHL now, I think an NHL team rushes him to try and change his approach to the game.
Alright folks, one part to go. Look for Part 3: 10-1 sometime by the end of this week. Anybody care to guess my Top 10?